The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

The Story That Cannot Be Told

J. Kasper Kramer, Author

Atheneum Books for Young Reader, Fiction, Oct. 8, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Romania, History, Revolution, Folktales, Family life, Writers, Courage

Opening: “Once upon a time, something happened. If it had not happened, it would not be told.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country, tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published — right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.

Why I like this book:

J. Kasper Kramer’s The Story That Cannot Be Told is gripping and haunting, powerful and hopeful. The tempting title and perfect opening line beckon readers to enter Illeana’s world. Once they begin, they won’t be able to put this novel down.

It is set in Romania in the 1980s, when communist leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, terrorized his country to control them. His secret police, the Securitate, enlisted ordinary people and kids to spy on their neighbors, friends and family. There is greed, death, starvation and brutality under his regime.

The characters are multi-layered and complex. Illenia is smart and courageous. Like her missing Uncle Andrei, Illenia is a writer and storyteller. She’s named after a character, Cunning Ileana, in a Romanian folktale that her father tells her at bedtime. This tale is woven throughout the novel. Illenia has written a collection of stories, poems, and folktales, that she’s compiled in her Great Tome. Most of them are harmless, but a few stories reveal truths that could get her family in serious trouble. Her father becomes fearful for his daughter’s safety, burns her tome and sends her to her grandparent’s farm village high in the mountains. Life there is backwards and operates at a slower pace. She dislikes her new environment at first. Illenia makes a new friend, Gabi, and learns that the village may soon be overtaken by the Romanian Army. She and Gabi make a plan to save the townspeople’s property.

Kramer’s original debut novel is a collection of folklores, memories, research, and fairy tales, that she beautifully weaves together into this unforgettable story that is part fact and part fiction. It is a story that will remain with you because of the profoundly human characters, thrilling and dangerous plot and the worthwhile ending. It is an excellent discussion book for teachers to use in the classroom, because it’s a part of history many students aren’t likely to know. It is very relevant today.

Resource: Make sure you read the Prologue at the beginning and the Author’s Note at the end. Visit Kramer at his website.

J. Kasper Kramer is an author and English professor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has a master’s degree in creative writing and once upon a time lived in Japan, where she taught at an international school. When she’s not curled up with a book, she loves researching lost fairy tales, playing video games. and fostering kittens.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Once Upon a Garden Series by Jo Rooks

Once Upon a Garden Series

Jo Rooks, Author and Illustrator

Magaination Press, Fiction

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Sophie’s Shell

Aug. 20, 2019

Book Synopsis: Sophie was always ponders big questions, like
Why is the sky blue?
Why are raindrops wet?
and What are stars made of?

But when Sophie starts school, there’s a wobbly feeling in her tummy and she can’t help popping back into her shell.  She is left with one big question Why am I so shy?

When Sophie meets Stanley, she realizes that she’s not the only one who feels shy. Can she gain the confidence to help a new friend?
A heart warming tale about a sensitive snail who overcomes her shyness with a little help from her new friends.

Lucy’s Light

Aug. 20, 2019

Book Synopsis: Lucy is a lightning bug and the most talented flyer in the squad. There’s just one problem: she doesn’t light up! When it’s time to learn night flying, Lucy is anxious. She tries everything to get her light to shine but nothing works. Lucy is about to give up when her friends are captured by a nasty toad and his gang, who hatched a plan to brighten up their bog. Does Lucy have what it takes to save her friends? Or is she just an “ordinary” bug after all? A sweet story which shines a light on inner confidence, self-acceptance, and courage. Lucy learns that doing a good deed will always make you shine bright!

Doug’s Dung

Mar. 21 2020

Book Synopsis: Doug has trouble lifting heavy balls of dung. He just doesn’t feel as strong as the other dung beetles. When Doug feels down that he isn’t tough enough, a passing butterfly helps him see things in a different light and he realizes that strength comes in many forms.

An uplifting story of a determined dung beetle who finds his unique strength in creating beautiful things inspired by nature, flowers, friends, and the garden.

Layla’s Luck

Mar. 21, 2020

Book Synopsis: Layla is a ladybug with a lucky charm for ever occasion: lucky socks for running races, a lucky pencil for test, and a lucky watering can for her flowers. When Layla enters a baking event, she is counting on her good luck to help her bake a delicious cake. But is luck the only ingredient that matters?

A clever tale of a ladybug who learns that success comes form her own smarts, skill and hard work — not lucky charms and chance.

Why I like this series:

Explore the the world of self-discovery with four adorable creatures from the natural world — Layla, Doug, Lucy and Sophie — in the Once Upon a Garden series by author-illustrator, Jo Rooks. The four curious characters are fun-loving and appear in all of the stories. The series is perfect for young children who are working with issues of shyness, self-acceptance, and courage, and discovering new talents, skills and hard work. There is simplicity in the text and the illustrations are happy and bright, and compliment the emotions and themes in each book. This series is sure to boost the self-confidence of children.

Resources: Visit your backyard and identify the insects visiting your flower beds, gardens and trees. Draw a picture of your favorite insect or make up story about what the insect is doing. The books alone are excellent resources for parents and teachers.

Jo Rooks is an award-winning author-illustrator who studied graphic design and illustration at Bath School of Art and Design. She has illustrated several books including A Box of Butterflies and Hector’s Favorite Place.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copies from the publisher.

Stand Up! by Wendy L. Moss

Stand Up!: Be an Upstander and Make a Difference

Wendy L. Moss, PHD, author

Magination Press, Nonfiction, Dec. 3, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 13-19

Pages: 112

Themes: Caring, Kindness, Courage, Assertiveness, Social Justice, Making a Difference

Book Synopsis:

Do you want to be an Upstander who makes the world a better place by standing up to bullying and injustice in your school, home, or community? If so, this book is for you!

You may doubt that one kid can make a difference. You can’t fly like Wonder Woman or scale walls like Spiderman, but you could be a hero to someone else by speaking up. Small changes can lead to bigger and bigger changes!

Chock full of quizzes, examples, practical advice, and small steps you can take in your real life, Stand Up!: Be an Upstander and Make a Difference takes readers through the ways to be an Upstander, including being kind to yourself, having empathy for others, spreading kindness, and dealing with conflicts.

Why I like this book:

My favorite kind of stories to share are books that show kids making a difference in their schools, communities and world. This remarkable resource speaks directly to teens who want to focus on helping themselves and others in a multitude of social situations. It may be in standing up for equality and fairness. Being the kindness that you want to receive. Dealing with situations that involve anger and conflict in a respectful manner.

I like the term Upstander which means “a person who stands up to support fairness and respect while also trying to decrease bullying and injustice.” Being an Upstander begins with understanding yourself — how you do you feel most of the time? It’s hard to help others until you know what pushes your buttons.

This book is about empowerment and is not preachy!  And it is a fun read. Moss provides ideas and strategies throughout the book that work. Each chapter has a theme and is packed with real-life stories, situations, quizzes, and practical suggestions and strategies to help readers handle difficult moments with sound advice.

Educators: This book belongs in your classrooms. It is a much-needed resource to help  students stand up for what is right. It also encourages team work among students.

Wendy L. Moss, PhD, ABPP, FAASP, has her doctorate in clinical psychology, is a licensed psychologist, and has a certification in school psychology. Dr. Moss has practiced in the field of psychology for over 30 years and has worked in hospital, residential, private practice, clinic, and school settings. She has the distinction of being recognized as a diplomate in school psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology for her advanced level of competence in the field of school psychology.

Dr. Moss has been appointed as a fellow in the American Academy of School Psychology. In addition, she is the author of Bounce Back: How to Be a Resilient Kid, Being Me: A Kid’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Self-Esteem, and Children Don’t Come With an Instruction Manual: A Teacher’s Guide to Problems That Affect Learners; coauthor, with Donald A. Moses, MD, of The Tween Book: A Growing-Up Guide for the Changing You; coauthor, with Robin A. DeLuca-Acconi, LCSW, of School Made Easier: A Kid’s Guide to Study Strategies and Anxiety-Busting Tools; coauthor, with Susan A. Taddonio, DPT, of The Survival Guide for Kids With Physical Disabilities & Challenges; and has written several articles.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

You Are Your Strong by Danielle Dufayet

You Are Your Strong

Danielle Dufayet, Author

Jennifer Zivoin, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 19, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Emotions, Self-control, Courage, Coping skills

Opening: “When puppy’s woofs turn into whimpers, Worry whispers in my ears.”

Book Synopsis:

A soothing and empowering exploration of children’s emotions that will help them develop self-awareness, self-confidence, peace, and inner calm.

With diverse characters and scenes featuring a range of different family relationships — from parents, to grandparents, to an older sister in the military — this books shows kids that they will have help along the way to be strong and in control.

You Are Your Strong helps kids understand a range of emotions ranging from worry, fear, to sadness and anger. And it highlights the benefit of developing inner strength and confidence in themselves.

Why I like this book:

First of all, the cover really grabs your attention because you feel the strength. The breathtaking illustrations that follow are vibrant, diverse and expressive and compliment the author’s very lyrical text. “If I’m shivering with SCARED about monsters and dark, I find BRAVE by making up a funny story. Or I rat-a-tap-tap my favorite song until Scared slips away.”

You are Your Strong is a perfect to jump-start conversations with children about their big emotions. It is a good book for families to read together, because parents will find themselves relating and sharing their own stories. This is a book for all ages.

This is an excellent educational resource for teachers and parents of Pre-K children. The earlier you help children identify and address emotions, the easier it will be for them to find their own coping skills.

Resource: There is an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end, with advice for building skills to navigate and cope with big emotions. It’s important for kids to address scary emotions, but it is also important for them to identify their happy emotions.

Danielle Dufayet teaches English and public speaking/self-empowerment classes for kids. This is her first book. She lives in San Jose, California. Visit her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

17 Million Kids Celebrate International Dot Day Globally

Nearly 17 million students from 182 countries have begun celebrating International Dot Day. I have personally watched this phenomenon grow year after year and it couldn’t be more timely and relevant to see children connecting with each other globally.

It all began with a book. The Dot. Written by Peter H. Reynolds in 2003. Iowa teacher Terry (T.J.) Shay, who held the very first Dot Day celebration in 2009, has been the motivational force behind this extraordinary annual event.

And a girl named Vashti, who claimed she couldn’t draw. Her teacher believed in Vashti and asked her to make a dot. She stabbed her dot on a piece of paper and handed it to her teacher. Her teacher asked her to sign it. A few days later, Vashti saw her “dot” framed and hanging at the front of the class.

Sixteen years later, Vashti’s act of courage continues to inspire children worldwide. Around September 15ish, nearly 17 million children will celebrate creativity, courage and collaboration as they participate in International Dot Day.

Each year teachers and students continue to take International Dot Day to a new level, using many ways to connect and partner with teachers and students in all 50 states and 182 countries. This is truly a global event where children are connecting the dots with each other around the world.

It’s not to late to sign up for International Dot Day. If you are a teacher, homeschooler or parent who wants to get involved in this powerful event, there is still time to enroll your students and children. It will continue next week and beyond. Visit the International Dot Day site for all the information and resources you will need to get started, inspired and connected. Teachers, make sure you check out the special section Skype in the Classroom to learn how to connect with students from other schools.

Follow International Dot Day on:
Facebook: Share on the Dot Day Facebook page (facebook.com/InternationalDotDay)
Twitter: Connect on Twitter using (twitter.com/DotClubConnect)
Use the hashtags: #DotDay and #Makeyourmark

Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd

Over the Moon

Natalie Lloyd, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Mar. 26, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Coal miners, Servants, Disability, Courage, Friendship, Competition, Magic, Legends

Opening: Dustflights are trained to sense explosions in the Down Below. Honeysuckle is my papa’s Dustflight, a tiny yellow bird they give every miner in Coal Top. 

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Mallie Ramble knows better than to dream. In Coal Top, you live the story you’re given: boys toil in the mines in the Down Below and girls work as servants. Mallie can’t bear the idea of that kind of life, but her family is counting on her wages to survive. Her father is injured in the mines.

It wasn’t always this way. Before the Dust came, the people of Coal Top could weave starlight into cloth. They’d wear these dreaming clothes to sleep and wake up with the courage to seek adventure . . . or the peace to heal a broken heart. But now nothing can penetrate Coal Top’s blanket of sorrow.

So when Mallie is chosen for a dangerous competition in which daring (and ideally, orphaned) children train flying horses, she jumps at the chance. Maybe she’ll change her story. Maybe she’ll even find the magic she needs to dream again. Maybe she will help her community to heal.

But the situation proves even more dangerous when Mallie uncovers a sinister mystery at the heart of Coal Top’s struggles — a mystery some powerful people, like Mortimer Good and his Guardians, will do anything to protect.

Why I like this book:

Over the Moon is an enchanting tale that will transport readers to Coal Top, a community that has lost its joy and is blanketed in sadness. And there is a girl, Mallie, who is pure of heart and brave enough to dream of flying among the stars. Natalie Lloyd creates a magical experience with a touch of realism. Her storytelling and literary style sets her apart as an original voice in children’s literature.

The characters are complex and unforgettable. Mallie is the loveable narrator who is wild and brave on the inside, “a fire-popper in a glass jar.” She has a short right arm and wears a fake orange “Popsnap,” that attaches at her elbow. She is her family’s breadwinner. She’s spirited and determined to keep her younger brother, Denver out of the mines. Adam is Mallie’s best friend and only sees her abilities. Together they make a good team. Honor and his friends are bullies. Iggy is a three-foot tall woman who cares for the flying horses. She is a tough trainer with a tender heart. Mortimer Good, is a beguiling and evil manipulator who wields a lot of control over Coal Top.

The plot is courageous, thrilling, and dangerous, with a sinister twist. Seeking “riches untold,” Mallie, Adam, Honor and other mountain kids show up for Mortimer Good’s competition. But they must prove themselves by capturing a magical flying horse (Starbirds) in the dangerous West Woods, which is full of monsters. There is adventure in training their horses, wonder in flying, danger in collecting riches from the mountains, and mystery in the origins of the dust.

Over the Moon is a labor of love for Natalie Lloyd, as she draws upon her own experience with a physical disability to create her main character, Mallie. In doing so, Lloyd shows her own source of courage as she pours her heart into brave, adventurous and kind-hearted Mallie.   

The heavy Dust that blankets Coal Top and snuffs out the light, becomes a powerful metaphor for the “dust” in our daily lives. Mallie is a reminder for readers that they need to push through their own challenges and darkness to find their inner light.

Over the Moon will touch your heart and soul. It is a tale of love, friendship, hope and courage. Lloyd’s fans will be “over the moon” with her new novel.

‘Mountain girl, lift up your eyes,

The stars are shining bright for thee.

Reach out and take the silver chord,

Braid beauty there for all to see.”

Natalie Lloyd is the New York Times bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic, which has been optioned for television by Sony TriStar. Lloyd’s other novels include The Key to Extraordinary, and The Problim Children series. Lloyd lives in Tennessee with her husband, Justin and her dogs Samson and Biscuit. Visit Lloyd at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.